In the Garden:
Upper South
May, 2009
Regional Report

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If new plants can't be planted right away, put them in a protected position and keep them watered and tended.

Plants A'Poppin'

All at once it hits. Everything needs doing in the garden at once, even if you've been working in it for several months already. Sure, all the clematis were tied up once, but now they've grown and need tying up again. Areas that were weeded and mulched once again have weeds growing there. The tomatoes are ready to plant, but the ground isn't worked up yet. Ditto for the areas for the squash and beans. Asparagus needs to be picked and frozen. The
"driveway nursery" is ever-expanding. And the list goes on and on.

Still, it's a wonderful time of year, with each new day bringing something else in bloom. The hardy kiwi is finally loaded with buds, and the rhubarb planting really responded to the extra care it received last year. The rare Iris oxypetala bloomed for the first time. Trees and shrubs planted several years ago are finally showing some size and form.

As I considered what to write about this time, it was difficult to choose just one topic. There's just so much going on in the garden right now. Here instead, is a few observations that have brought fun to my gardening this spring.

Daylilies, Hostas, and Iris
This triumvirate were among my mother's favorite perennials, but I had generally rather eschewed them, seeking out the more unusual. Now I'm singing a different song, as I come to appreciate their nearly indestructible natures. After spending untold dollars on perennials that have since come and gone, the daylilies, hostas, and iris form the backbone to my mixed flower borders. Sure, I have dozens of other perennials, but these three have really gained my respect. Be sure to give them consideration this year.

The Hot Colors
One part of my garden is planted with flowers in colors through the "hot" part of the color spectrum, tempered by some soft blues and purples. It's here that the daylilies really come into their own. I like to intersperse them with other flowers that round out the seasons. An assortment of different varieties of yellow-flowering yarrows fit this bill nicely, both with their long-lasting, flat-topped flowers and the soft, ferny foliage. The new hybrid baptisias, such as 'Screamin' Yellow', provide provide color and vertical interest in late spring. There are also a number of different perennials that provide daisy-like, yellow or orange flowers, including coreopsis, gaillardia, helenium, heliopsis, rudbeckia, and echinacea.

Coreopsis isn't always the longest-lived perennial, but so far 'Golden Gain' and 'Sunshine Superman' are holding their own. This year I've added 'Full Moon' and 'Sienna Sunset'. Heliopsis 'Summer Nights' is interesting for the dark red stems and red-tinged foliage as well as for the yellow daisies it bears. The new hybrid echinaceas are going to be fascinating to watch and see how well they do, and they really expand the possibilities of long-flowering perennials that blend well with daylilies.

Queen of the Vines
Why do some flowers draw us in more than others? I can't rationally explain what fascinates me so about clematis, but there always seems to be another one or two hopping into my shopping cart. Although I certainly don't grow the biggest or best clematis, I do seem to have an aptitude for them that some of my friends complain that they do not have. One of the secrets with clematis is to plant them with the crown an inch or so below the soil surface -- and mulch around them well. To help me remember how to prune the different ones, I keep a notebook with a description of each one that includes the pruning group designation. The American Clematis Society, http://clematis.org, and the University of Hull, http://www.clematis.hull.ac.uk, both provide Web sites that are great for learning more about clematis.

Wrong Direction, But Right For Me
Wouldn't you just know it? Right when everyone else is jumping on the food garden bandwagon, I'm scaling back. Of course, that terminology is relative. I'll still be growing over fifty different varieties of tomatoes (at last count), including a trial of different fifteen-plus paste varieties. Since the freezers and canned-goods shelves are still pretty full, there isn't a great deal of pressure to grow as much as usual. I'm going to wait until later in the summer to plant beets, then can and pickle them in the fall. Maybe I won't be so swamped then. Hope sure does spring eternal.

Last year's eggplant were an abysmal failure, so the plan is to grow them in self-watering containers this year. I've read that they'll do great there, so we'll see. I'm also trying another self-watering planter with basil, parsley, and small-growing tomatoes. Planters of potatoes are another experiment in the offing.

Then there's the experimental planting of unusual Asian greens. If I like them, then I'll plant more in the summer for harvesting in the fall. And the trial of heirloom sweet potatoes. And ... and ... and. Think I'll sit down here by this fountain for a little while and rest a bit. If you get overwhelmed or discouraged this spring, remember that, too. All gardens, whether for function or beauty, are meant to be enjoyed and savored.


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